Innovation In Charity Fundraising

Mr Tom Lewis-Reynier

Definition: What does innovation mean to charity fundraisers ?

The aim of charity fundraising is (broadly speaking) to raise as much money as possible from donors for the charity to spend on its programmes of work to deliver benefits to its beneficiaries. The purpose of innovation within this process is to develop new propositions or ‘asks’ that the charity can approach its donors with that generate this increase in revenue. These are a charity’s fundraising ‘products’.

The challenge for fundraising innovation in the future is to provide propositions that fit in with the lives of donors (are compelling and easy to use), that demonstrate to the donor the effectiveness with which her money has been spent (provides feedback and some form of measurement to the donor of the difference her donation has made), and enables the donor to feel close to the work that the charity does (engage the donor and make them feel like they are playing an active part in solving the problem). This last challenge of engagement also encourages an increased level of giving and can be used to develop the donor relationship, increasing the overall lifetime value of the donor.

Problem: What are the challenges for innovation ?

Charities are historically focussed more on the needs of their beneficiaries and the development of their programmes as opposed to the preferences and behaviours of their donors. The type of work that donors find most attractive to fund may not be the most effective work for the charities to carry out. There is often a divisive silo mentality in the charity’s organisation which impedes the fundraising department from speaking to the programme departments. These issues represent challenges for the work of innovation because they result in ineffective fundraising propositions being developed which either do not raise funds or raise it for the wrong kinds of work and either do not recruit donors or develop the relationships that charities have with existing donors.

Solution: How should charity innovation address these challenges in the future ?

Charities are beginning to formalise teams within fundraising departments which sit as service teams to all the income streams to develop the propositions that are offered to attract new donors and retain existing ones. This approach is recent and the models of innovation that are being rolled out within each differs. It is yet to be proved which will prove the most effective.

What is important is that the whole of the fundraising department realises the role that innovation can play in enriching the relationships that each income stream can have with its donors, and takes on responsibility and accountability for rolling out new product ideas in pilot stage. It is critical that members of the central innovation function can engage their colleagues across fundraising in the development of new propositions, and that they themselves have some experience and expertise in the principles of fundraising. It is also important that the key skills of project management and new product development are acquired if charities are to respond to the increasing pressure on modern donors’ lives in order to demand a bigger share of both mind and pocket.

Article © 2009 Mr Tom Lewis-Reynier. All rights reserved.

about the author...

Mr Tom  Lewis-Reynier

Mr Tom Lewis-Reynier

affiliation:   Royal National Institute of Blind People

position:  Innovation Services Manager

country:  United Kingdom

area of interest:  Innovation management

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